Yesterday, on my way to the Bodleian Libraries, I passed a little Russian Orthodox Church. The Eastern Orthodox denominations have always captivated me. An urge to wander in suddenly struck me. Although small, the building looked beautiful, and after missing Sunday Mass, the idea of praying in a church sounded amazing.
Going against a bit of anxiety that welled up, I crossed the street and opened the huge wooden door. To my surprise, the room was a rather cramped meeting space with a relatively small but majestic nave of the church behind a barrier.
What shocked me even more (and added to my anxiety) was the fact that the priest and three nuns were the only people present. As the door swung open, they all turned to me in confusion. Right away, I longed to bolt. What a stupid idea wandering into an unknown church all by myself.
However, escaping would have been only more embarrassing at that point. Thus, I smiled anxiously and stated that I was an Oxford student who was Catholic and wanted to say a quick prayer. A bit taken aback but kind in a stern way, the priest responded that they were fixing the wall murals but everyone was welcome in the church.
Gratefully, I went in and murmured a few prayers while gaping at the exquiste icons and wall paintings. The whole church was so majestic and awe-inspiring. Soon my wonder conquered my fear. Taking another chance, I stopped and spoke with the nuns and priest for a little while. They were a bit nervous as well, so our conversation was a bit jolted. Yet the experience of exploring something new was amazing. They handed me information on the church and I plan to go to a Mass sometime in the next few weeks.
Stepping into the St. Nicholas Church and trying something new took a lot of strength and was a big risk. Normally anxiety and fear of social situations because of Aspergers would have held me back. Yet, I find myself feeling so much stronger and happier in Oxford. Experiences that normally terrified me now bring excitement and joy.
Is it being on my own that is pushing me to be more daring? Do I love where I am so much that my spirits are brightened? Has all of the hard work of recovery paid off finally?
I am not sure why there is this change. However, the longer I am here, the more I long to stay here. Maybe one day….